Reflecting back over my husband’s and my experiences of the adoption process from preparation and assessment through to being matched and Introductions, it strikes me that every step of the way we would have benefited from some basic tips; a kind of “How To… “guide to get us through some of the more challenging aspects of it all.
Of the many and varied experiences we had, Introductions – when you get to meet your child for the first time and immerse yourself in their world (in our case for two whole weeks) – holds a special place in my memory as I found it a confusing and bewildering time. I felt a bit like the Sandra Bullock character in Speed, when she’s desperately trying to take charge of that massive speeding runaway bus with no idea what she was doing. (Sadly I’m pretty sureI looked a lot more disheveled than she did.)
Here is what I wish someone had said to me before we set off…
You are allowed to be really excited. It’s a massive thing you’re doing.
You have been patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for this moment for quite some time now. You’ve been pinched and prodded by Social Services who have gone through every single thing in your history (some good, some bad. Some embarrassing, some odd). You’ve been CRB checked. You’ve drawn family trees, outlined family values, painted children’s pictures, role played in the preparation group, spoken passionately about violin lessons, swimming, dancing, football etc. You have been matched. Met family finders, seen photos, spoken to foster carers and now you are finally about to meet your child. YOUR CHILD! A new addition to your family! Someone you will love for the rest of your life. Have hopes and fears for, go on life’s twists and turns with and someone you plan to share a rich, challenging, rewarding future with. How much more exciting could it get right?
I know you’re not expecting it but you might feel overwhelmed.
– It really is a massive thing you’re doing.
Your excitement might temporarily desert you and turn into blind panic as you attempt to process an awful lot of information in a very short space of time in a very unfamiliar environment. THIS IS NORMAL! It’s imperative you understand that. You are on a steep learning curve with a small human being’s welfare being placed in your hands, it’s bound to be stressful. To add to that stress, people will be observing you, and most of them will probably know your child much better than you do right now. Will you come across well? What if your new child can see immediately that you don’t know what you’re doing? That you are a blatant beginner? AN IMPOSTER? Your brain might go into overdrive and play tricks on you. It may even tell you you’re not up to the task, but I’ve got news for you, you are! Be kind to yourself and hang in there. You have never been in this situation before. It’s odd and unfamiliar and there is a lot to take in. Deep breaths. You can do this.
Try not to place expectations on those first vulnerable meetings.
It’s going to be like a blind date of epic proportions.
You might fall in love with your new child on first sight, and you also might not. You might actually be so psyched up that you are numb and can’t feel anything…. Doesn’t matter. There is no right or wrong here so take your foot off the accelerator. You have years of giggling, joyful (and sometimes maddening) getting to know your child times ahead of you. There is no rush.
And finally… you need to know that it’ll all be ok in the end. You will get through this strange process and bring home your beautiful complicated and amazing child who you will love more than you thought was humanly possible. She will continue to enchant and bewitch amuse and confuse you every single day. And your life will be changed forever, in a really really good way.